|April 8, 2009|
|'Pinch' Is Being Pinched From All Sides|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|New York Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger takes a beating in the new Vanity Fair in which Mark Bowden first berates him for ducking an interview and then proceeds to hammer Sulzberger for overseeing the "shrinking" of his company. |
At the very least, Bowden believes the head of the world’s most celebrated newspaper, one that dispatches hungry newshounds into the wilds every day to ferret out information by asking questions, should sit down for a chat as a matter of fair play. Let the New York Times Co. PR people sort that one out. Pinch should have gone down fighting.
Had he consented to an interview, Pinch could have challenged Bowden’s view that he drove his “inheritance” into a financial ditch. The publisher, a big “Star Wars” fan, is taken to task for building a gleaming new headquarters (Starship Enterprise?), while the newspaper world struggles for survival. The NYTC just cooked up a real estate play on that building to keep creditors at bay for a spell.
Sulzberger is dismissed as a well-meaning steward at a time the NYT needs some “wild-eyed genius of an entrepreneur” at the helm. Calling Mike Bloomberg?
Bowden trashes Pinch in many areas, but the latest threat to the NYTC survival is not completely his fault. Dad, "Punch," was responsible for the $1.1B outlay for the Boston Globe that currently has the NYTC in full retreat. That 1993 deal, then the biggest ever for a paper, has turned into an albatross. The NYTC, which positions itself as the guardian of good journalism, is now threatening the unthinkable: Pinch and management vow they will shutter the Globe unless reporters and others cough up concessions.
Those shutdown threats have come from second-tier newspaper companies like Advance Publications (Star-Ledger) and Hearst (San Francisco Chronicle). Geez, this blogger understands media is a business, but this is the NYTC that is now playing the role of hit man -- throwing the rich 137-year history of the Globe overboard.
The Globe lost more than $50M in '08, and is expected to top that deficit this year. It has cut 500 union employees since 2000 and 50 more are set to go. A local group, including former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, offered to take the Globe off Pinch’s hands in 2006 for a now-princely sum in the $550M range. The paper was recently valued at $20M. A web-based future beckons.
Punch gets the blame for buying the Globe at the dawn of the Internet explosion, an upheaval that especially hurt papers located in high-tech hot spots like Boston. Pinch gets blame for dismissing for Welch and his cohorts.
There is one ever-so-small ray of good news for Pinch. A share of NYTC stock is worth $5.20 today, enough to buy a Sunday edition. Those shares traded as low as $3.14 during the course of the last 52 weeks. It will be some time until the 52-week high of $21.14 is seen again.
The printed Boston Globe may be history by then, or owned by some Bean Towners.
(Image via poynter.org)
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